This wild and whispering fig tree is this dorpie’s root of creativity


The Whispering Tree is a tangle of inexhaustible wonder. For close to 200 years, this impressive wild fig has stood in the town of Albertinia. With its enormous canopy of leaves and knotted trunk, the tree is a major influence in Marietjie Coetzee’s life. “The town had been my favourite destination for a single reason – this magnificent tree,” she says. A retired publisher and writer, Coetzee understood the value of quiet sanctuary and felt compelled to anchor her life to this spot. In 2014, she moved to the dorpie in the Garden Route, creating a retreat around the roots of her beloved fig.

At Coetzee’s new home at 4 George Street, the enormous tree is a local hero. With a trunk that’s more than 14 metres, it’s one the thickest trees in South Africa, enchanting visitors with its contorted base and hanging boughs. In 2017, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry recognised the fig as a Champion Tree – one of exceptional importance that deserves national protection. In the garden where the Whispering Tree stands, fountains of water parallel the bubbling creativity of guests who come to write and reflect. “There’s an endless source of inspiration here,” Coetzee says.

Located 40 minutes inland from Mossel Bay, Albertinia isn’t difficult to reach. With the Langeberg mountains ahead, dirt roads lead to the town known for its aloes, quiet beauty, and the call of the Whispering Tree. As night falls, the wind dancing through its leaves heightens from a gentle rustle to a swooshing roar, just like it has done for the past two centuries. “This old tree has stood the test of time,” Coetzee says. “It is a symbol of strength.” With our protection and respect, natural wonders such as these will continue to thrive across South Africa.